Maintaining a healthy body weight is a struggle for many people, and it doesn’t get any easier with age. However, eating healthy is not just about waistlines but also future-proofing long-term health. In the case of menopause, this means helping to protect your heart and bones against disease. The foods you include in your diet can also help manage specific symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes.
When planning your diet, include plenty of nourishing foods, particularly those rich in plant oestrogens such as nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, pulses, whole grains, and soy. These foods may help reduce the severity of specific menopause symptoms, given their very mild human oestrogen mimicking effect. These foods are also high in fibre and protein, which can also help keep you feeling satiated between meals which can help to promote weight loss.
Top ten menopause foods
During this time, the drop in oestrogen can lead to a rapid decrease in bone density, putting women at an increased risk of osteoporosis. With this in mind, your menopause diet plan should also include at least three servings of calcium-rich foods daily. These foods don’t have to be dairy. Many other options include fortified plant milk and yoghurts and beans, pulses, soy, and dark green leafy vegetables. The ageing process beyond the age of 40 also incurs a loss of muscle mass, impacting future strength and mobility. Both bone and muscle health can be maintained with a diet offering a good source of protein, so include this with every meal.
Hormonal changes during menopause can also increase the risk of heart disease, given its protective effect on this significant organ. There is also an increased risk of other factors associated with heart disease, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, which are more likely to occur later in life. Adopting a primarily plant-based diet is an excellent way to help ensure good heart health. Foods high in fibre are a good option as this nutrient has been associated with lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and overall heart health, and assisting with weight loss, a risk factor for many diseases more common in later life.
Seven day menu plan
This following menu plan offer a good example of how you diet might look if you are trying to focus on losing weight while still addressing some of the key issues associated with the menopause.
- Apple and blueberry Bircher muesli: oats soaked in apple juice and oat milk topped with grated apple, blueberries, almonds and cinnamon.
- Granola, pineapple and strawberries: coconut milk yoghurt topped with granola, strawberries, pineapple and pumpkin seeds.
- Avocado smash: scooped avocado, nuts, seeds, lentil sprouts combined with lemon juice and olive oil.
- Baked eggs: Eggs baked in a spicy tomato, red pepper and spinach sauce.
- Mini frittatas: small egg frittatas made in muffin tins with red peppers, mushrooms and courgettes.
- Breakfast smoothie: berry smoothie made with oats, milk, spinach and crushed flaxseeds.
- Veggie breakfast: grilled halloumi and tomatoes with spinach, guacamole and toasted rye bread
- Freekah, pea and broccoli salad: combine freekeh, asparagus, peas and broccoli with tahini dressing.
- Roasted vegetable salad: roasted vegetables, quinoa and avocado served with hummus.
- Raw slaw: combine julienned beetroot, carrot, peppers and spring onions with cashew nuts, seeds and ginger dressing (olive oil, ginger, lemon juice, mint and coriander).
- Roasted paprika aubergine: baked aubergine spiced with paprika and topped with fresh tomato sauce, yoghurt, pomegranate and served with brown rice.
- Courgetti with tomato sauce: homemade fresh tomato sauce served with courgetti and toasted pine nuts.
- Quinoa salad: combine quinoa, avocado, spinach, edamame beans, spring onions, seeds, olive oil and lemon juice.
- Watercress and turkey soup: broth made with watercress, spinach and shredded turkey breast served with rye bread.
- Baked tikka cod with red lentils.
- Mixed bean chilli: veggie chilli made with black beans, red kidney beans, tomatoes, chilli powder served with brown rice and avocado.
- Indian spiced lentil and chicken salad (FULL).
- Beetroot and carrot tagine: stew of beetroot, chickpeas, carrots, celery, mint and coriander served with cauliflower couscous.
- Roasted squash and tofu curry: combination of butternut squash, tomatoes, tofu, curry powder served with lime and coconut yoghurt.
- Salmon with hazelnut and orange: Grilled salmon topped with hazelnut paste served with green bean, rocket and orange salad.
- Tandoori chicken: grilled chicken marinated with Indian spices and yoghurt served with a pineapple salsa and brown rice.
Baked tikka cod and red lentil dhal
- 1 red onion, finely sliced
- The juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp curry paste – use whatever you have
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 cod loin steaks
- 200g red lentils
- 1000ml water
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 red onion, finely diced
- 6 small dried chillies
- 10 curry leaves
- 1/4 tsp brown mustard seeds
- Mango chutney, to serve
- Lime wedges, to serve
- Pre-heat the oven to 180℃.
- To make the pickled red onions, finely slice the red onion and add to a bowl. Cover with the juice of 1 lemon and ½ tsp salt and leave to marinate.
- Cover the fish in the curry paste and ½ a teaspoon of turmeric and set aside whilst you cook the lentils.
- Place the lentils, the remaining ½ tsp turmeric and 1 litre of water in a pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 – 15 minutes until the lentils are soft. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place the cod onto a lipped baking sheet and bake in the oven for 7 – 10 minutes, until cooked through but still moist.
- Meanwhile, place 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 2-3 minutes, until softened, then stir in the dried chillies and curry leaves and cook for a further 1 minute until fragrant. Finally, stir into the lentils.
- To serve, divide the dhal and fish among plates and serve with the pickled red onions, mango chutney and lime wedges.
Freekeh, pea and broccoli salad with tahini dressing
- 200g green freekeh grains
- 600ml water
- 1 chicken stock cube
- 125g tenderstem broccoli
- 125g asparagus
- 250g frozen peas
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp chilli flakes, optional
- Salt & pepper
For the dressing
- 4 tbsp runny tahini
- Juice 1 lemon
- 1/2 crushed garlic clove
- 20 – 30 ml water
- Pinch of salt
- Put the freekeh in a large saucepan, cover with the water and add the chicken stock cube before bringing to the boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 – 20 minutes, until tender, then drain.
- Cook the broccoli, asparagus and peas in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and refresh under cold water.
- For the dressing, mix the tahini, lemon juice and garlic together with a pinch of salt and then add the water slowly, until the dressing reaches the consistency of double cream.
- To serve, toss the freekeh with the veg and chilli flakes, then mix in the dressing, adding salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Indian Spiced lentil and chicken salad
- 100g pack Indian spiced lentils
- 75g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 75g cucumber, sliced
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- handful fresh coriander, chopped
- 150g cooked, chicken breast, shredded
- 4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
- pinch cumin
- handful of mint, shredded
- 1 lime, cut into wedges, to serve
- Heat the lentils according to the packet instructions.
- Place lentils, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and most of the coriander in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Divide the lentils between 2 plates and then top with the chicken.
- In a small bowl combine the yoghurt, cumin and mint and stir to combine, Spoon on the salad and sprinkle with the remaining coriander.
Serve with lime wedges and mango chutney, if desired.